American Gun (review)

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These are the movies that try critics’ souls. It’s obvious that writer (with Steven Bagatourian)/director Aric Avelino’s meditation on guns in America springs from a deep desire to understand the culture of violence and the vicious cycles that drive it — this is no bit of cheap exploitation created merely to rake in some dough. But purity of motives aside, the film simply isn’t very good. Oh, there are performances to break your heart — particularly Marcia Gay Harden (American Dreamz) as the mother of a teenager who shot up is school, Tony Goldwyn (The Last Samurai) as a cop who couldn’t stop the shooting, and Forest Whitaker (Phone Booth) as the principal of another school who’s desperate to prevent a similar incident from going down on his turf. But the three gun-related tales here go nowhere — I wouldn’t expect a single film to find any answers to such a complex situation, but this one fails to even asks any real questions, and instead throws in bizarre characterizations that are, perhaps, somehow meant as commentary about the stress of living in such a senselessly violent world but come at us as cinematic non sequiters. Why would Whitaker’s principal insist his own young son carry a pink flowered backpack? Is he trying to push the kid into doing something dangerous with a gun?

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